Google has unveiled its plans to start phasing out third-party cookies from its Chrome browser beginning Q1 2024, starting with 1% of users. This initial phase-out aims to eventually rid the browser of web trackers entirely by Q3 2024. The implementation of this move means that potentially thirty million people using Chrome could soon experience web browsing without these cookies. However, Google does not disclose its user numbers and has not confirmed these estimates.
Third-party cookies are those that are created on your device when you visit a specific site but are accessed by another website. They enable ad networks or social media networks to track users' interests as they browse across different internet pages, further allowing for personalized ads and services.
Google's Privacy Sandbox: The Alternative
As a replacement for third-party cookies, Google has been testing what is known as the Privacy Sandbox in Chrome. A crucial element of this sandbox is the Topics API, which allows websites to request a list of topics a user might be interested in, based on their browsing history. This will enable site owners and ad networks to tailor content or ads accordingly. Rather than following users around the web using cookies, sites, and ad networks can directly request this information from users' browsers.
Google suggests that developers prepare for this imminent change by auditing their current cookie usage, testing to see if the removal of cookies causes any issues on their sites, and migrating to relevant web APIs.
Controversies Surrounding Privacy Sandbox
While Google insists that its Privacy Sandbox is a better alternative to third-party tracking cookies, it has faced substantial criticism, with privacy advocates claiming that it still infringes upon users' privacy. Some critics believe that this move will only further strengthen Google's monopoly within the web ad market.
The UK's Competitions and Markets Authority is currently assessing the technology and may contribute further conditions to its full adoption deadline. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has recommended that Chrome users disable Privacy Sandbox or switch to Firefox or Safari, both of which have phased out third-party cookies.